Many people wish to take some control over what happens to their property when they pass away or become incapacitated. It is important to conduct proper estate planning so that your wishes are honored. In some cases, a will or trust is crafted, yet a dispute arises about how property should be handled upon a decedent’s death. Estate litigation can be pursued regarding these disputes or because of a breach of a fiduciary duty. At Robinson Law, our Fairfax estate planning lawyers can tailor your estate plan to your needs, and we can pursue estate litigation in Virginia if it becomes necessary.Why Estate Planning Matters
If you die without a valid estate plan in place, Virginia’s intestacy rules will govern how your estate is distributed through the Virginia probate process. There is a hierarchy of relatives who can inherit based on their closeness to you. Under the intestacy rules, if you leave behind a surviving spouse without children, your spouse receives the entire estate. If all your surviving children are with your spouse, your spouse still receives the entire estate. If you leave behind at least one child with someone other than your spouse, one-third of your estate goes to your surviving spouse, while the other two-thirds is divided among your children.
If you have a valid will in place when you pass away, however, your property should be distributed according to your wishes. Due to their family dynamics, many people would prefer a different arrangement than the default intestacy rules. If you do, it is essential to consult an estate planning attorney at our Fairfax firm who can assist you with drafting a will. This instrument must meet certain requirements to be considered valid. For example, a will must be dated and signed by the person who made the will and by two or more witnesses who were present at the same time.Probate and Will Contests
Probate involves the process of verifying that a will is valid and, if it is, distributing a decedent’s assets according to its provisions once the decedent’s debts have been paid. Disputes sometimes arise during probate. For example, there are circumstances in which a will disinherits some family members who were expecting to inherit the decedent’s property. In Virginia, a will contest may be brought by interested parties when someone has an interest in the estate that is subject to the will. Reasons why a will contest may be brought include lack of testamentary capacity, failure to follow formalities, undue influence, duress, fraud, forgery, and misrepresentation.Trusts
As an alternative or additional strategy, you may want to retain a Fairfax estate planning attorney to create a trust through which property can be held and distributed. Trusts are arrangements whereby one or more people manage property on behalf of others. The person who creates the trust is known as a settlor. The person who administers the trust and carries out its terms is the trustee. Beneficiaries receive assets within the trust upon a certain event happening, which is often the death of the settlor. Generally, to create a valid trust, the settlor needs to have the capacity and intent to do so. The settlor must name a definite beneficiary and a trustee, who cannot be the same people.
There are different types of trusts in Virginia, each of which can be used to accomplish different objectives in estate planning. Types of trusts in Virginia include revocable living trusts, irrevocable trusts, testamentary trusts, charitable trusts, and pet trusts. There are specific rules for each of these trusts. If your assets are placed into a valid revocable or irrevocable trust, you may be able to avoid probate. The assets immediately pass to the beneficiaries named in the trust.
As with wills, disputes can arise in connection with the validity of a trust, its terms, or how the trustee is carrying out their fiduciary duties. It may be necessary to pursue estate litigation in connection with trusts as well.Consult a Knowledgeable Estate Planning Lawyer in Fairfax
Many people put off estate planning. However, these tools are critical if you want to have some say over how your property is distributed when you pass away, or how it is managed in case you become incapacitated. Family bonds can be tested after a loved one dies, and it is also common for estate litigation to arise. Robinson Law represents people throughout Northern Virginia in matters related to wills, trusts, and estates. Call us at (703) 542-4008 or toll-free at (888) 259-9787, or contact us through our online form.